#StepForward Become a REC member

Last updated on 13 May 2024

Are you looking for a voluntary role where you can make a real difference?

Whether you’ve got experience of working in research, or none at all, we’re looking for people like you to join our Research Ethics Committees (REC) and help review vital health and social care research.

Please note, if you’re applying as a Lay member we are experiencing a high volume of applications at the moment. This means that you may need to wait longer to receive an interview date. We apologise for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience during this time. If you have any further questions please email our member recruitment team.

#StepForward and get involved in approving exciting new research and apply today.

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What does a Research Ethics Committee (REC) do?

Our REC members give their time freely to help protect the dignity, rights and safety of anyone who gets involved as a research participant, by reviewing research studies that will take place in the NHS and social care.

As a REC member you will help facilitate ethical research that aims to provide evidence for improving or changing practice for some of the biggest challenges in health and social care, including cancer, dementia and COVID-19.

You will be part of a committee of around 15 people who meet virtually to review applications for research approval.

Find out more about our Research Ethics Committees.

Different types of REC membership

Our committees are made up of a variety of people who bring different skills and experiences. This is important to make sure that we have insight from different perspectives. Everyone’s view is equally important.

You can apply to become a:

  • lay member - people who are not registered healthcare professionals and whose primary professional interest is not in clinical research, for example retired healthcare professionals (excluding retired doctors) and those involved in the management or administration of clinical research
  • lay-plus member – members of the public who have never worked in healthcare or research and have never been a member of a health service body
  • expert member - registered healthcare professionals, clinical trial statisticians and other experts in research

All our members have a shared goal; to ensure that research that is carried out in the NHS is safe, ethical and fair and is respectful of participants’ dignity and rights.

You can also apply to role share with someone else to share the workload of being part of a REC.

How to #StepForward and join a REC committee

If you want to play a crucial role in approving new health and social care research, apply today by completing this application form.

Please note, we are only accepting applications for lay plus (members of the public) and expert (registered health and social care professionals) roles at the moment. We will re-open applications for lay roles (people with experience in managing research or research governance) when vacancies arise. If you have any further questions please email our member support team who would be happy to help.

When filling out your application, you will need to complete a covering statement, to help you write this please refer to the person specification.

If you’re successful in being shortlisted, we will invite you to an interview where you will be asked to complete a short assessment. This will involve reading a research application which we will discuss on the day.

If you have any questions around the form or joining a REC, please email our membership team.

What skills do I need?

To join as a lay-plus member you do not need any prior experience to get involved. We really need people who have no prior research or healthcare experience to give their perspective on studies being reviewed.

If you are applying for a lay or expert member role you will need to have relevant experience outlined above for the role.

Whatever your experience, we will provide you with all the training and support you need.

As a member you’ll need to be confident in:

  • reading, understanding and analysing complex issues and weigh up conflicting opinions
  • taking an objective stance and looking at a situation from several perspectives
  • communicating with a group and voicing your opinions
  • working online, accessing and reviewing documents online and attending meetings virtually via Zoom

You will also have the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced REC member who can support you in your new role.

What you will do as a REC member

As a REC member you will attend monthly meetings online via Zoom.

We ask that members attend a minimum of six meetings a year. Meeting last about half a day and require five to six hours of reading to prepare in advance.

Members also review research applications and amendments to approved studies online through our members’ portal or via email.

Outside of meetings you will take part in sub-committee work via email. This involves reviewing applications with no material ethical issues or reviewing amendments to approved research. Members usually get in involved in sub-committee work two to three times a year, with two hours of reading for in advance for each sub-committee meeting.

What we can offer you in return for your time

We will give you an in-depth induction and training, as well as equality, diversity and human rights training.

You will also gain:

  • valuable skills and experience for your CV
  • in-depth understanding of research ethics
  • knowledge of research methodologies and statistics
  • detailed knowledge of relevant legislation
  • specialised knowledge of important areas of research, for example paediatric research or adults lacking capacity to give consent
  • practical skills from working as part of a committee, for example summarising points, debating, evaluating and decision making
  • members with a clinical background will also earn Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points

You will also have the opportunity to attend a REC development day once a year where you can meet fellow members and staff from across the HRA. 

Any travel expenses you incur as part of your role will be reimbursed.

Meet our REC members

Our REC members come from all different backgrounds and use their valuable personal and professional experience when making decisions.

You can find out more about our REC members and why they joined us on our meet our REC members page.

Attend a REC meeting

If you would like to find out more about the work our Research Ethics Committees do before applying to become a member why not come along and observe a meeting?

Meetings are held regularly throughout the week at different times, so if you’d like to come along please email our membership team.

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